Cayetano formally elected as House Speaker, vows to ‘do what is right’

Robie de Guzman   •   July 22, 2019   •   2213

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the House of Representatives have formally elected Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano as their next leader when the regular session of the 18th Congress opened on Monday (July 22).

With a vote of 266, Cayetano defeated his lone opponent for Speaker, Manila Representative Bienvenido “Benny” Abante who only received 28 votes.

Two solons abstained while one voted “no” to either nominations.

During the election, Cayetano was nominated by his former speakership rivals, Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez and Davao City Representative Paolo Duterte.

Abante was nominated by Iloilo Representative Janet Garin and AKO BICOL party-list Representative Alfredo Garbin.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier endorsed Cayetano’s bid for speakership, who will share the term with Velasco. The president proposed that Cayetano lead the House for 15 months and be succeeded by Velasco for the remaining 21 months.

Cayetano vowed to uphold the term-sharing agreement.

“Sana po ako’y maging worthy at sana po ay tulungan niyo ako para sa loob ng 15 na buwan ay mapagsilbihan po natin ang ating mga kababayang Mabuti,” he said in his speech after his election.

(I hope to be worthy and I hope you will help me during the 15 months to serve our people well.)

The newly-elected speaker also assured that the House of Representatives, under his helm, will be a partner of the Duterte administration.

“The House of Representatives, the House of the People are partners with the Duterte administration,” he said.

“We are partners in pursuing a better life for all Filipinos, whether we talk about teachers, about senior citizens, about young people, OFWs, professionals, our teachers, government workers, workers in the private sectors, or out-of-school youth, rich or poor, young or old, of whatever persuasion, of whatever religion, we are all connected and united,” he elaborated.

Aside from his assurance to remain as the Duterte administration’s ally, Cayetano also called on House members to unite and to do what is right.

“Tayo po ang takbuhan ng sambayanan. We will do what is right, so that we will have a Congress that is relevant, responsive and reliable… United and we commit to God, our people the work of the 18th Congress,” he said.

Still in line with the president’s endorsement, Romualdez was elected on Monday as House Majority Leader.

Meanwhile, Presidential son, Paolo was elected as one of the 11 deputy speakers of the House of Representatives along with Representatives Ferdinand Hernandez, Evelina Escudero, Loren Legarda, Conrad Estrella III, Prospero Pichay Jr., Roberto Puno, Eduardo Villanueva, Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Johnny Pimentel and Luis Raymond Villafuerte.

Davao City 3rd District Representative Isidro Ungab was elected as chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations while Cavite Representative Abraham Tolentino was voted as chairman of the Committee on Accounts.

The lower House also elected Jose Luis Montales as Secretary General and Retired Gen. Ramon Apolinario as Sergeant-at-Arms.

The election for Speakership inside the House Plenary hall this year did not have any ruckus compared to last year after House members ousted then-speaker, Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez and replaced him with then-Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Last year’s Speakership squabble delayed Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address by an hour.

‘Bitter Talaga Sila’: Cayetano slammed for riding on BTS popularity for clout

Marje Pelayo   •   January 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Seven lawmakers who previously held key positions in the House of Representatives (HOR) coined the slogans “Back to Service” and “Bayanihan, Tapang at Serbisyo” as their newest advocacy — these also coincidentally form the acronym “BTS”.

BTS is more popularly known as the acronym for Bangtan Boys, a South Korean pop group that is considered the biggest boy band in the world right now.

Meanwhile, the newly formed BTS political bloc in Congress — spearheaded by former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano — claims that the Lower House is not in its proper order of business nowadays.

The group wants to bring focus on more pressing issues such as economic recovery, COVID-19 response and prompt delivery of government services.

“Kung inuna niya ang hearing sa vaccination at sa PhilHealth, wala tayong problema. Inuna ang Cha-Cha,” Cayetano said of his successor House Speaker Allan Velasco.

READ: Cayetano steps down as House Speaker

Laguna Representative Dan Fernandez echoed the same sentiments.

“Kasi very important yung problema ng pandemic and that’s the reason why wala kaming sinasayang na oras. Pero ngayon isang buwan kaming bakasyon at magsisimula ang Kongreso sa Lunes wala kang narinig na hearing,” he said. 

All seven of them said they are part of a much larger group of colleagues in Congress who support their initiative.

“We are a bigger group. We have many sympathisers, supporters that are currently part of the leadership of the House. Marami kaming kasama na committee chairmen,” said Anak Kalusugan Partylist Mike Defensor.

They believe the HOR has lost its glory and they want to reinstate it through this advocacy.

“We want to bring back the House of Representative being the house of the people rather than the house of politics,” noted Camarines Sur Representative L-Ray Villafuerte.

“Pinatibay namin iyong grupo namin dahil iisa ang nararamdaman namin. Kailangang maramdaman ng mga tao na ang House of Representatives ay kasama nila sa anumang nararamdaman nila,” added Batangas Representative Raneo Abu.

On the other hand, Senior Deputy Speaker Doy Leachon defended Velasco’s push for charter change as he believes it can solve and improve the current state of the country’s economy.

“Cha-Cha is sincere to deal only with economic provisions and supported by party leaders because this is the most opportune and right time to address the high unemployment rate and closure of business as the constitutional amendments seek to address infusion of massive investment opportunities,” he said.

Leachon in a statement called Cayetano’s group “ungrateful” and “selfish”.

He said Cayetano should have been thankful that Velasco did not touch the “bloated budget” that the former inserted and crafted into the 2021 national budget.

“Moreover, Speaker Velasco, despite their demeaning personality attacks on him, didn’t even raise a finger for 15 months and just waited for the right time to assume as the head of Congress based on the term-sharing agreement. Yun ang tularan nila- maginoo,” Leachon said.

“Their BTS launch is insignificant as to derail the Velasco’s legislative agenda because the current leadership under Speaker Velasco has earned the respect of the members of the supermajority  because they lucidly see a decent man, not vindictive, working leader who has also a gentle heart to feel the needs of the House members. Hindi barkadahan lang,” he added.

Leachon advised the group not to ride on the popularity of the K-pop group BTS because their acronym might end up standing for: ‘Bitter Talaga Sila.’ MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Velasco files bills granting president power to suspend PhilHealth, SSS rate hikes

Robie de Guzman   •   January 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Thursday said he has filed two separate bills seeking to grant the president the power to suspend the scheduled increases in the contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Social Security System (SSS) in times of national emergencies.

In a statement, Velasco said his twin measures propose to amend Republic Act (RA) 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act, and RA 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, which provide for gradual increases in monthly premium contributions in PhilHealth and SSS, respectively.

The bills authorize the president to suspend the implementation of the scheduled increases in premium rates in times of national emergencies “when public interest so requires.”

But this should be in consultation with the secretaries of health and finance departments as chairpersons of PhilHealth and SSS, respectively.

The measures were filed after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of the premium rate increase.

Velasco said RA 11223 was enacted in 2018 to ensure that all Filipinos are guaranteed equitable access to quality and affordable health care goods and services, and protected against financial risk.

He said the intent of the law is clear and cannot be overemphasized—Filipinos need and deserve a comprehensive set of health services that are cost-effective, of high quality, and responsive.

The House speaker, however, stressed that the current situation is extraordinary and that Congress must respond accordingly as he called for the swift approval of the bills aimed at alleviating the financial burden faced by many Filipino workers amid the crisis.

“While we recognize that the [PhilHealth] only aims to implement the provisions of RA 11223, imposing a higher premium rate to our kababayans under our current conditions will definitely enforce a new round of financial burden to its members,” Velasco said in the explanatory note of House Bill 8316.

“Suspending the imposition of the new PhilHealth premium rates will provide a much-needed relief from the negative effects of the pandemic and will assure Filipinos that the government is sensitive to their sentiments,” he said.

In filing HB 8317, Velasco said the temporary suspension of the hike in SSS contributions will help the workforce achieve faster recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

“We are witnesses to the negative impact of this COVID-19 outbreak. Under this pretext, the sovereign government must be given the prerogative to bend the rules of the social security law in favor of the greater good,” Velasco said.

He likewise said that increasing the rate of contributions of SSS members will “strikingly undermine the recovery effort of everyone suffering from job losses, wage reduction, business closures, and health-related issues.”

Duterte administers oath to Velasco as House speaker

Robie de Guzman   •   November 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte administered the oath of office to Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Malacañang said.

The oathtaking was held in a private ceremony on Monday at the Malacañan Palace.

The event was also attended by Velasco’s wife Rowena, his father Marinduque Governor Presbitero Velasco Jr., and mother Torrijos Mayor Lorna Velasco.

Velasco took his oath of office about a month after he was elected to the highest position at the House of Representatives.

Velasco was installed as the new House Speaker after he was elected by a total of 186 lawmakers in a remote session in Quezon City in October.

His election was ratified the next day in a session held at the House Plenary Hall.

At the same time, Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano stepped down from the speakership post.

The two lawmakers earlier agreed to a term-sharing deal brokered by Duterte where Cayetano will lead the lower chamber for the first 15 months to be followed by Velasco in the remaining 21 months of the term. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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